Monday, September 8, 2014

TIFF 2014: The Truth, the Whole Truth and Total Fabrications

Posted By on Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Among the films Boise Weekly screened Sept. 7 at the Toronto International Film Festival was a trio of movies, each offering a true story ... and in one case, a story about truth itself.

Hands-down, one of the best of this year's festival is a new British film from Matthew Warchus called Pride, winner of the 2014 Queer Palm at Cannes telling the rarely told story of how a small group of gay activists in London found kindred spirits in the National Union of Mineworkers at the height of the U.K. miners' strikes in 1984-85. The film is equally touching and outrageous, and I'm fairly certain audiences will make Pride one of the big surprise hits of the year.

Next up was Pawn Sacrifice, the much-anticipated film from director Ed Zwick (Glory, Legends of the Fall), which chronicles the events leading up to the 1972 "chess match of the century" between American Bobby Fischer and Russian rival Boris Spassky. The film offers fine performances from Tobey Maguire as Fischer and Liev Schreiber as Spassky but ultimately, this is a movie about chess, and that's a tough sell at the box office. I enjoyed it, but I'm old enough to recall how provocative  that chess match was, and I'm afraid  without those memories, Pawn Sacrifice will be respected more than it will be embraced by audiences.

TIFF always showcases a fine slate of documentaries each year, and I'm thrilled to report that filmmaker Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.) is back with a smart, sassy look at the men and women who broker truth as a commodity. Based on the 2010 book of the same name by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt exposes professional skeptics who are paid handsomely to spin their own versions of the truth on tobacco, climate change, vaccines, etc. It's heartbreaking to watch authoritative scientists, not traditionally adept at talking in sound-bites, go head-to-head on cable news programs with professional spinmeisters. The film does a nice job reminding us that these "merchants" have no intention of winning the debate. They only want the debate to be never-ending, thus delaying public action: It took nearly 50 years for big tobacco to admit to its lies. No doubt there will be a well-orchestrated campaign pushing back against Merchants of Doubt once it hits the big screen—all the more reason to see this great film.

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